Audrey Ardine, 129 TESS
Months ago, I noticed that there was a group of chickens that would sometimes wander behind my house. “That’s so Thailand,” I thought to myself feeling wonderment that chickens just roam freely behind my house of all places! They were once and awhile friends that kept me company while I washed the dishes, did my laundry and took in the views of my backyard, until they decided to make the tree right behind my house their permanent place of residence.
Every evening when the sun starts to set, the roosting process begins. All of them wander towards the tree and one at a time hop onto one of the lower branches of the tree, then to a higher branch, and then a higher one until they find the perfect resting spot. But most of the time, they don’t get it right on the first try. This means they take a misstep and fall right out of the tree. They squawk like crazy the whole way down, wings flapping in a wild panic. Maybe their chicken brains don’t remember this happens every time and that no one gets hurt. It’s a loud and strange process. “Drama queens,” I thought to myself the first few times I witnessed it.
Things were going well with my new neighbors until the two roosters that hang with the chicken gang made their presence known. Every morning, I was (and still am) awoken by the roosters’ crows way earlier than I need to be woken up. And it’s never just one crow. It’s over and over again, like, “I don’t think she heard us, let’s do it again!” It is the alarm clock from hell.
I usually awoke filled with fury. I would yell “SHUT UP!” and growl from my bed and stuff my head under a pillow. After the first few times this happened, I got up and went to my back window. The roosters were standing on my back stoop crowing away. I banged on my window aggressively yelling, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? GO AWAY!” They hopped off the stoop and took a few steps away, but they didn’t take me too seriously.
I contemplated possible solutions and decided my best plan of action would be to collect rocks to throw at the chickens and sooner or later they would realize that my back stoop was an unsafe place to deliver their morning wake up call. I felt a little insane thinking up this plan. But the chickens had made themselves an enemy, one that would not be underestimated.
I woke up one morning to the sound of one rooster’s crow sounding weak. He’s the smaller of the two. I like to think he’s a teenage rooster who is still learning the ropes of rooster responsibilities and because of this, he crows again and again to perfect his craft. I couldn’t take it. I got of bed and threw a rock at teenage rooster. It was a soft toss, just meant to scare both of them and it seemed to work.
But it only got worse. The chickens made my back stoop their bathroom. I opened up my back door one morning to discover poop and feathers everywhere. This could have been due to the fact that I throw all food scraps behind my house, but at the time that didn’t pass through my mind. I grabbed bleach and got to cleaning.
Fortunately, it didn’t happen again until what I call the cookie catastrophe. I had made chocolate chip cookies and being a perfectionist, I thought it unacceptable to give cookies with burnt bottoms to my teachers and students (otherwise decently tasting). I threw them behind the house and giggled gleefully feeling generous when the chickens started eating them. When I opened my back door the next morning, I soon regretted my decision to give the chickens and roosters cookies. Again, I grabbed the bleach and started cleaning.
One morning, the squawking and crowing was so unbearable. I got my butt out of bed, grabbed whatever was available — a cold bag of soup — opened my back door and whipped the bag of soup at the roosters. I’ve never seen the chickens and roosters run so fast. It was satisfying.
These days, when the roosters’ crowing wakes me up, I either accept that it’s my time to wake up or I try to bury my head under my pillows and go back to sleep. I still very much dislike the chickens and roosters. But I can’t throw bags of perfectly good soup away every morning, I can’t move the chickens and roosters to a new home and I can’t eat them for dinner either. But I can accept that this is a battle that won’t be won. I can adjust to the alarm clocks from hell just as I have adjusted the difficult things during my service — the failed projects, the stressful and confusing days, the daily tong sia, second guessing myself. I can let it be a reminder of all the things that I have grown accustomed to over the past 24 months, the things that I have overcome. A reminder that yes, I can do hard things and that I will continue to do hard things after my time here in Thailand has ended.